Christmas shopping for my parents is absolutely impossible. They have never been all that materialistic to begin with, but now at age 61, they have enough discretionary income to buy whatever they want or need for themselves. Last year, I was planning on buying my mom a new Amazon Kindle; she, however, couldn’t wait until December 25th to get one, and purchased it for herself on Cyber Monday, leaving me without any ideas for her. My father is even more difficult to buy for; one year when I was in college, I sent him a survey to fill out, gauging his likes and dislikes, in hopes of discerning some potential gift ideas. His list of his three favorite things looked like this:
- Corduroy pants
- Mixed nuts
I bought him a banana hanger. Turns out, he already had one, which he’d never bothered using.
The key to finding great gifts for parents – especially parents who have everything – is to focus in on what they don’t have and, even more specifically, what they can’t get on their own. With that in mind, I’ve come up with five can’t-miss gifts for parents.
1. A Donation To Their Favorite Charity
The year I purchased a flock of geese from Heifer International on behalf of my mother was one of her favorite Christmases. She loved the idea that someone in a developing nation was benefiting from her gift. For parents who don’t want material goods – my parents have spent the past decade trimming down their belongings in preparation for some eventual move to downsize – this is a great alternative.
2. Personalized Gifts
For years, my husband and I have gone in with his brothers and sisters to give his parents personalized gifts – a photo calendar of all the kids and grandkids. It’s a great way for them to have a collection of great photos in one concise location, without cluttering up the house with pictures of the 14 of us. Plus, it has the added benefit of serving a clearly defined purpose.
3. Autographed Memorabilia
One of my dad’s greatest sources of joy is the Duke University basketball team. When I was on campus as an undergrad, I learned that you could purchase a team poster, drop it off at the athletic department, and the team would autograph it. Ever since, I’ve bought my dad one of these signed posters every year. It makes Christmas shopping easy, it’s surprisingly affordable, and the poster can actually grow in value depending on the team’s outcome in the NCAA tournament. My dad’s favorite is his signed poster of the 2010 National Championship team, which hangs behind his desk at work.
4. Once-In-A-Lifetime Experiences
My parents are both huge sports fans, as illustrated by the presence of several sports-related items on their bucket lists (yes, they actually have bucket lists). Things like attending a Final Four, playing a round at Pebble Beach, and seeing the Rose Bowl parade in person are all on the list. So is attending a tournament round for the Masters at Augusta National. That’s why this summer I was so stoked when I learned I’d won the Masters “lottery” – the right to buy tickets to the opening round of the 2013 tournament. This year, my parents will receive those tickets – which are nearly impossible to buy – and I know it’ll be the gift of a lifetime.
5. Time With You
I’ve lived hundreds of miles away from home ever since my freshman year of college. That’s part of the reason why we all value time with each other so much. Some years, I was so short on cash that all I could do for Christmas was book a flight (or make the long drive) home for the holidays. I always felt guilty coming home empty handed, but my parents were always quick to say that my presence was all they really wanted. Once home, we’d hit up the old skating rink or take a walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights under the frosty night sky. Honestly, I don’t remember what my parents got me for Christmas that year; I just remember the memories we created together.
Reader, what are your go-to gifts for parents?